Sunday, February 8, 2009

Two Treasures at Skidmore Woods

While poking around in my Skidmore files, I came across two other plants that you don't find very often. (See last post.)  In fact, while searching the web for information about these plants, I discovered they're considered either endangered or of special concern (or even extinct)  in several neighboring states.  Makes me feel very grateful to have such a treasure as the Skidmore woods close to home.

Both of these plants are violets, but I bet you wouldn't have guessed that about the first one pictured above (unless you're a botanist).  It took me a long time to figure out what it was, because at first I didn't see any flowers.  Then I lifted a leaf, and there they were:  tiny little green bud-like things hanging down from the axils.  It's called green violet (Hybanthus concolor -- meaning hump-backed flowers the same color as the leaves).  It sure doesn't look like any other violet I know.  The plant stands about knee high, with long-pointed elliptical leaves alternating on the stout hairy stalk.  The only thing violet-like about it (to a non-botanist like me) is its tripartite seed pod that splits open when ripe, spreading its seeds all over the place.  In fact, when you see how it grows in the Skidmore woods -- just hundreds and hundreds of plants -- you'll wonder how it could be considered rare.  It sure has found its niche in that special place. 

The other violet looks like what we think a violet should look like.  And isn't it pretty?  Snow white on its face,  with a deep yellow throat, dark purple stripes on its lower lips.  But approach it from behind and you wouldn't think it was the same flower:  it's a lovely purple back there.  Viola tricolor (three-colored violet) would be a likely name for this plant.  But it isn't.  This is Viola canadensis, or Canada violet.   I don't know how it fares in Canada.  In some of our neighboring states it's considered threatened.  But aren't we lucky?  It grows like a weed all over the Skidmore woods.

Or, it will, when spring gets here.

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